Song for this chapter: None right now.
April 21st, 2011
Book Two: Intertwine
The Girl with the Invisible Soul
With a few muttered words of greeting to the family, Mark Antony let the spirit within his scythe’s orb free. The soul steadily grew into the glowing silhouette of a boy no more than eight. The temporary grim reaper knelt down to the boy’s eye level and waited for him to blink himself to reality.
“Hey, kid,” Mark Antony said when those lifeless eyes began to widen in horror. With decades upon decades of practice, he managed to make his usually harsh voice softer and comforting. “You alright?”
The boy formerly known as Allen Hale bit his lip in an intense effort to not cry. His eyes found his reflection on Mark Antony’s scythe, and Allen gave a sharp gasp. Those lime-green eyes people always said made him look like his mother were now a washed-out gray. He averted his eyes to the dry earth at his feet.
“Where a-am I?” he stuttered. Allen wrapped his arms around his shaking frame. The blue T-shirt was no longer ripped and stained with blood. “And wh-why is it-t so cold?”
Mark Antony instinctively shuffled back. Comforting the kid was one thing, but Allen was shaking like a leaf because his tiny soul was near another, much more powerful one that could easily tear it into nonexistence. Trying not to seem so intimidating, Mark Antony leaned forward, gripping the staff of his scythe for balance. Allen mustered enough courage to look up.
“You’re home, Allen,” the dead sergeant told him. Mark Antony smiled as the transparent boy met his eyes. He seemed to relax when he saw they were the same shade of gray as his own. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew their stares shouldn’t be so empty, but all he cared was that the man before him knew where they were.
“I don’t remember anything,” the eight-year-old mumbled. Allen stuck his hands into the pockets of his jeans and focused on the shoelaces of his tennis shoes. Soon, his vision grew cloudy. Mark Antony put a hand on his shoulder, and thankfully, the soul didn’t draw away from his touch.
“That’s okay,” Mark Antony soothed. There was a small beat of hesitancy before he said, “You’ll like it here.”
With that he gestured to his left. Allen turned, and he smiled for the first since his death. There, behind a picket fence, was a young woman and two playing children. The woman caught his wide-eyed stare and gestured for him to come. Allen was unaware of how the woman and the children looked nothing alike or that their clothing ranged from one century to the next. In seconds, his little feet had him running towards the humble home of wood and the family that welcomed him.
Mark Antony stood up and leaned against his tool of trade. The two children had grabbed Allen by either arm and dragged him to their game of tag. Black, blonde, and now red hair disappeared behind a pair of sickly-looking trees, laughter filling the air. The woman looked at them, wiped nonexistent dirt on the apron of her dress, and decided to go inside.
“Damn Death,” the assistant cursed, running a hand through his disheveled auburn hair. If he wasn’t dead, he would no doubt be getting gray hairs from these side-jobs. “I hate it when he dumps his grim reaper job on me.”
As much as he gritted his teeth and urged to slice something up with his scythe, Mark Antony had to admit that being Death was never meant to be a job for one person. There were billions of people in the world, so of course Death piled on some of the deaths on him as well. The Dusclops were of some help, but on top of roaming the streets of Purgatory’s villages they also had to go out and hunt for stray souls.
And after roaming the dimension for over three hundred years, Mark Antony could safely say that Purgatory seemed never-ending.
Childish laughter seized the air again, and the sergeant growled. Determinedly, he turned on his heel and began walking away. “But I’ll be damned if this isn’t depressing. That woman has been there since the early 1800s. By the turn of the century, those children will still be running around in their games.”
Mark Antony had entered another street surrounded by houses of all shapes and sizes. Just like every day, families went about their day, their memories of when they were alive forgotten long ago; it would be a couple of days before Allen, too, forgot his family, friends, and dreams. The mere thought sent a dark look to cover Mark Antony’s features. Just because it was his job it didn’t mean he had to like it.
The soul stopped and lifted his gaze. In the distance he made out the crumbling tower he called home. There was a possibility Death was out collecting souls, but Mark Antony didn’t want to take the risk. Being given another job so soon made him seek a bench to lay down for a while instead. Whenever he had to ferry in people’s souls, it made him miss the tension-filled atmosphere of a battlefield or the sometimes-chaotic missions of a guardian angel.
Laying his scythe against the wall of a dilapidated convenience store, Mark Antony laid down on the bench outside and put his arms behind his head. The garnet sky of Purgatory was as harsh and cloudless as ever, but it somehow lulled him. There was no sun to blind him, no clouds to drop rain upon him, and he certainly didn’t miss snow. He despised the cold and wetness of snow; it had been one of his bitterest foes back when he was a sergeant battling the Kantonians and the forces of nature.
“Afternoon,” a voice greeted him from above.
Mark Antony blinked and picked himself up to rest on an elbow. With nobody around except the ignorant souls, he sighed and shifted his gaze to the leaning scythe above his head. The orb glowed a vibrant red despite the fact that no soul inhabited it.
“Yes?” was the slightly sarcastic response.
He could almost hear Death chuckle at the other end. “I have an urgent job for you.”
“Splendid,” Mark Antony quipped, but the sarcasm was lost as a smile graced his pale face. Gathering souls was never ‘urgent,’ so this had to be a job for guarding a living.
“I knew you would find this better than bringing more souls into this lovely world of ours,” Death said, his own grin lining his words.
“I’ll be right there.” Mark Antony grabbed his scythe and then remarked, looking pointedly at the orb, “I would appreciate it if you would let me fly over in silence, Death.”
This time the grim reaper laughed his hollow laugh. “As you wish, Mark Antony.”
When the voice faded and the orb grew dark again, the Johtonian levitated off the ground and took off towards the tower in the distance, sliding the scythe back into its sheathe on his back. Already his previous bad mood was fading away into the red skies of Purgatory. For now, he could forget about lost memories, waiting souls, and little kids who were much too young to die. As unfair as it seemed, all those he guarded went on to become so great they were first in line for Judgment. Whoever this person Death saw in his visions was going to be no exception.
Mark Antony began to count those humans on a hand. The creator of the Pokémon Tower, the founder of the very first Pokémon League, the discoverer of Isshu. All of those had been passed Judgment and were now spending a blissful eternity in Heaven. Others, such as the trainer that went on to disband Team Rocket, were still alive but promised the same favoritism. The rules of the afterlife might be skewed beyond recognition, but he took comfort in the fact that he had a part in sparing them from this bleak dimension. He himself didn’t mind living here, but at least his free will and memories had been spared.
Slowing his flight, Mark Antony landed on one of the many floating bricks that surrounded the tower. He leaned forward and witnessed an unsettling sight.
By the grim light this world gave off, Death could be seen pacing the room. Straightening, Mark Antony raised a curious eyebrow. Just by his shadow’s rapid, flickering movements, he realized his superior seemed more troubled than usual. Even when it had been his first guardian mission Death was calm and rearing to go. Why did this new mission put him on edge?
“So, Father,” Mark Antony mused as he hopped onto a lower brick, then onto another like a winding staircase. “What has gotten you so worked up?”
From his latest step, the assistant put out a hand against the tower and lowered himself into the room through the window. Death stopped and turned his way. Though he smiled with his sole eye, the face on his stomach was pinched in worry. Mark Antony gave a tentative grin.
“I see this one’s different from the others,” he remarked, crossing his arms. Grays eyes scrutinized the Dusknoir’s stiff posture and conflicting expressions. “Why?”
“The girl’s relatively normal,” Death began.
He began to pace the room again but without that anxious air from before. Mark Antony, more at ease, took a seat on the window’s ledge to hear the case. That was more like it. When the ruler of Purgatory was troubled, even he couldn’t help but squirm.
“A college student, a devoted daughter. Her mother is ill, and her father is a rare sight among the home, but such cases are not at all that uncommon. No, what makes her interesting is the fact that whenever I try and sense her soul to determine the possible time of death, something prevents me from doing so.”
“Really?” Mark Antony asked, more interested and eager to start on the mission than ever. He leaned forward with childish curiosity. “And why do you suppose that is?”
Death gave an amused chuckle at his assistant’s piqued interest. “I can’t say for sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that fortune telling has run in the family for generations. Dabbling into ancient magic and witchcraft does have unforeseen affects.”
Mark Antony sat back with a frown. He had met with a couple of fortune tellers during his missions, and they had all left a bad taste in his mouth. There were a handful that actually seemed to make accurate, yet vague, predictions, but most were fake and eccentric.
“Oh stop,” the Dusknoir chided upon seeing the soul’s expression. “No one in the immediate family fortune tells, so your sanity will be safe.”
“I’ll still hold you accountable,” the chastised Mark Antony promised.
“I’m sure you will.” Death then fixed his eye on the expectant spirit. “Now it’s time for you to get going.”
Mark Antony slid off his perch and closed his eyes. Through three centuries of being bound to Death, he was easily able to extract the information he needed from the reaper. Johto. Goldenrod City. A modest house that overlooked a busy street.
“I’ll keep you updated,” he said when he reopened his eyes. Mark Antony took his scythe in his hands and gave a salute; old habits died hard.
Death was about to turn his back and continue with his own duties when Mark Antony relaxed his stance long enough to give a smirk. “Please don’t let this place fall to shambles while I’m gone.”
But the youth was gone in a haze of curling smoke.
Death shook his head. It was going to be really quiet for a while.
Oh, Johto. It didn’t matter how much it changed over the decades. Mark Antony absolutely loved his home region and would die a second time for it.
Said soul floated above the vast city of Goldenrod. The number of neighborhoods that crisscrossed each other was mind boggling, yet what Mark Antony found the most curious was that the citizens knew exactly where they were going. He flew in closer, and the shops that littered the city popped into view. The Radio Tower to the west had some catchy tune on the airwaves that Mark Antony found himself enjoying. However, the biggest and the most prominent aspect of all was the Goldenrod Shopping Center. More than six stories tall, it towered over many of the surrounding houses.
Including a quaint, two-story home right below.
Mark Antony began to descend, his scythe held close. Voices began to reach his ears, all carrying that strange Johtonian accent that was so different to the archaic one he still spoke with. A man was seen fixing a lighting fixture on the second floor, and a woman was seen sleeping on a chair on the first floor’s living room. By the time he landed on the house’s front yard, Mark Antony had concluded that maybe this family had all their screws in place, despite their ancestors being fortune tellers.
That was all nice and well, but he had not seen a Pokémon anywhere in the house. There had to be one around or else Death would have warned him beforehand. (Mark Antony didn’t want to think that his superior had purposely screwed him over.)
As he walked around, invisible to all, the twenty-five-year-old (at least, he still liked to think himself as) admired his surroundings. It was rare to see such a well-cared yard in such a big city. The grass was so green and vibrant that he didn’t need a sense of touch to know that it was soft. A bushel of colorful flowers were nestled next to the house, and a tree near the front gate shaded it all from the afternoon sun. It stretched upwards as the plant at its base snored—
Mark Antony did a double take and immediately concluded that Kanto Pokémon were stranger than the natives.
“You’re not the most pleasant thing to the eye,” the assistant remarked as he walked towards it. “But you’ll have to do.”
Mark Antony knelt down to inspect it, and already felt phantom goose bumps rise along his arms at the sight. The closed pink flower on its back told him it was a plant, but the stout, quadruped body told him it was a Pokémon. He’d seen Oddish and Bellosom, but at least their Grass-type features didn’t look like parasites trying to take over their hosts.
Just then, the Pokémon lazily opened its eyes. Ruby red met silver for a split second before the Ivysaur stood and stretched, the leaves that fanned out from its flower shaking as though trying to absorb the sun above. Mark Antony had stood up in surprise, but he now took a deep breath (another one of his old habits) and raised his scythe.
The Ivysaur stopped dead in its tracks. Its blood ran cold, and its lime-green skin paled to the shade of a frozen plant. Mark Antony pulled the scythe out of the Pokémon’s head with a brief apology to the soul that struggled at the sickle’s tip. As though soothed by his words, the ball of green light slinked into the orb nestled within the weapon’s skull. Then the scythe disappeared from his hands with one last farewell.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Mark Antony mumbled as he felt the Ivysaur’s body pull him towards it. One again, he knelt to the creature’s eye level. Those soulless eyes were going to be his in a matter of moments, and for some odd reason, it made hesitant him about the possession. It was the same feeling he would get before engaging in a battle, a foreboding instinct only the stupid cast aside.
“You better have many tricks on you,” he warned before touching the Pokémon’s head.
The world flipped then turned black.